Porto: history, business and wine

On the slopes above the Duero Estuary, Porto is a historic mercantile city with business and trade written into its very name. The centre is a World Heritage site: there are medieval walls, gleaming Baroque churches, the compact streets of the Ribeira district, the Romanesque Cathedral and that’s just the beginning. Fortified port wine is still stored in warehouses on the south bank of the Douro, and if you track the river to the ocean you arrive at the stylish Foz do Douro district for beaches and hip restaurants.

The Duero river banks offer a little chaotic and great fun to explore, Porto’s riverside area is a very picturesque piazza. There are bars and restaurants around every corner, and these line the riverside walk too, where to enjoy a good value for money meal.

You’ll have a perfect shot of the iconic Luís I Bridge from here. An industrial symbol for Porto, this twin-level metal arched bridge opened in 1886. The bridge crosses the steep, rocky banks of the Duero river and rises to almost 45 metres. There’s a bird’s eye view of the Cais da Ribeira from the top level, which is also used by Porto’s light railway. It’s really worth crossing it and enjoying the panoramic view from terraces up there.

Porto’s old stock exchange was built next to the Church of São Francisco after its cloisters burned down during the Siege of Porto in 1832. The exterior was finished by 1850 and has a Neoclassical design, while the eclectic interiors were decorated right up to the start of the 20th century. You have to go in to comprehend the richness of the sculpture, decorative carvings, plasterwork, frescos, chandeliers and tiles. The stuccoed Moorish Revival Salão Árabe is almost overwhelming, while the monumental Pátio das Nações courtyard is lit by an octagonal metal and glass roof. Could be considered a cathedral for business. Now, it holds events such as weddings.

If some cities are famous for their gastronomical delicacies, it is the wine what has turned Porto into a world’s gastronomical landmark. It would be very easy, but probably not a good idea, to do nothing but drink port and tour cellars in Porto. These are located on the south bank of the Douro in Vila Nova de Gaia.

A few, like Real Companhia Velha, Caves Sandeman and Taylor’s Port, have histories going back hundreds of years and come with museums documenting their story. As for the wine, it becomes fortified by adding grape spirit, which halts fermentation and helps port keep its sweet flavour. From them on it is stored in oak barrels for anything between two years and four decades depending on the style.

Apart from these places which any visitor to Porto must not avoid, the city offers a wide range of places, such as churches, museums, or picturesque shops such as the one called Valor d’o Tempo, which offers sardines packed in really special cans.

And of course, there’s no better way to enjoy this Portuguese city than with Tour Travel & More offer private tours as well as private transfers in Porto and its surroundings. All of them in the most comfortable vehicles and guided by real specialists who know all and every corner of this emblematic place.

Posted in Porto.